December 28, 2004

Holiday booty.

Not the rear kind, the gear kind. I'm 25, and I still go home to my parents' house every single year for Christmas, even though I live 850 miles away. It's sort of a deal between my mother and I that I will continue to do so as long as she continues to provide presents on an equal scale with when I was, say, ten years old. The fact that I'm in grad school and still have Christmas vacations helps, too. My reluctance to really grow up always proves itself to be to my benefit. We also have a running game where I steal Baby Jesus from the nativity scene and keep him until Christmas day, not to be surrendered unless there are presents for ransom. Hey, he's born on Christmas, right (allegedly)? This year, he was super-glued in there, and I wound up pulling the entire manger out of the scene, after which I had to pry the little baby out of a hell of a lot of glue. Christmas is fun on Elm Avenue. I don't even get dressed on Christmas anymore, really -- P.J. pants and something cozy on top, rarely even shoes. I'm adept at doing nothing or very little, and I really excel at it on Christmas day. Being a vegetarian in a house with ham and turkey roasting is trying, given my former affection for the latter, but there is actually a buffet of candy and cookies in the dining room at my parents' house. To say that I have some holiday weight on me right now would be to propose that "some" means "formerly merely noticable gut goes very awry in its noticeability." Gifts this year? A glass pen and ink set; American Writers at Home; assorted underthings from the GAP; The Polar Express; Bottle Rocket; a toaster oven; money and gift cards; a gift certificate to Center Stage in Baltimore; coffee; candy; "My So-Called Life" on DVD (the entire series); customized bookplates; a fascimile of the first edition of For Whom The Bell Tolls; an Edgar Allan Poe Little Thinker doll; and more items I have forgotten to list. Why so smugly materialistic? Hell, Christmas is about giving and getting presents and family and rest and eating too much good food and spreading joy to all and coming to Baltimore and doing nothing. That's what it's always been to me. Even when I was a practicing Catholic, the togetherness and presents got me more excited than the birth of Jesus. Is that wrong? I don't feel badly for having the holiday mean something to me other than what it's "supposed" to mean, even if my up-bringing was geared to getting me to remember "the reason for the season" and all that. There's really nothing "spiritual" about it for me. Why would my spirituality need a holiday to be exercised anyway?

December 24, 2004

Christmas: Only for Christians?

I'm getting very sick of hearing and reading that Americans have taken "the reason from the season" of Christmas and all of that bullshit. Sure, for a lot of people, Christmas is a religious holiday, the way it began. But I can't believe that people are so clueless and naive that they actually think that Christmas in the United States has been a religious holiday in recent memory, including those you-should-believe-what-I-do middle-agers who've found the Lord. How many people are still alive who didn't get Christmas as a commercial or -- at best -- a cultural holiday? I know some people still experience Christmas firstly as a religious observance. Yes. But, as a culture, that's just not how it is here in the United States. Everyone knows that, right? No one says you can't go to church where you can say "Merry Christmas" and not "Happy Holidays," right? Why should your church extend to the mall and to the bookstore? Why do you need to "get Christmas back" from its current cultural and commerical meaning? Who's stopping you from still letting Christmas mean to you what you want it to mean to you? What can't we all have Christmas and have it the way we want it without people speaking out telling us that we stole their holiday and that we should give it back? As if Jesus was really born on December 25th and as if the idea of the Christmas season wasn't stolen from someone else. Oh, wait, I forgot. This is America, and we were founded by Christians, and "most" of us still convince ourselves that we're Christians, so we should all just let Christianity go where it wants to go? Right. You know what? The real Christians I know don't want to claim Christmas for what it is anyway, since they can tell the difference between the public sphere and the private one. I wish there were more people like that.

December 23, 2004

Listen to me whine.

Rain rain rain. Nothing but rain and traffic here in Baltimore. And it's snowing like a bee-siz-nitch in the Heartland, where I would be, if it were not a holiday. I wish it would snow here. Booh-hooh.

Damned engine light.

I get in the car Monday when the wind-chill is below zero (F), and the "check engine" light is on. It doesn't go off, so I call the Mazda dealer. They say not to worry too much if it's not blinking, which it's not. I have a great trip to IKEA to do some shopping yesterday, and it still does not go off. I wake up so early today to take it in to the dealer that I'm not even showered, and the damned light goes off before I leave the driveway. Ain't dat a bitch? Oh, well. There was a safety recall that's being taken care of today anyway, one that's over a month over-due. To top it off, UPS has lost one of my packages; Red Envelope screwed up my order; and Amazon might go back on that guaranteed delivery promise. Damn it. Oh, well. It could be worse, right? It will probably work out.

December 19, 2004

New York, Part. I.

Here is a photo of a walk-way in Central Park, and my shadow. I was busy all day today catching up with some great friends, going out to breakfast, spending too much money at Daedalus Books near Washington, D.C. and driving through some snow. More photos and stories shortly, promise. I have a few hundred photos of the Big Apple to sort through.

December 18, 2004

Going to New York.

I am leaving for New York, New York tomorrow, er, later this moring, really. After 22 years in Maryland and 2 years in Massachusetts, I have not actually been to New York. I've been through it in cars and trains and over it in planes (low enough to see downtown). Never got to hang out or explore, though. I have my pencils and pens and my current Moleskine packed. I bought a new and larger (256 MB) memory card for my camera. I have all of my gear all ready to go. The fact that I'm not going to sleep much is fine, since I don't have to drive. After life in Carbondale, Baltimore is super-big-city to me again. New York -- the veritable giant of American cities -- is going to be even more shocking. I'm completely stoked and a little nervous. Then again, I got around in super-congested Boston fine, and it's not like Baltimore is not a huge city, too. I should really just be excited. Damn, now I really can't sleep. At a small holiday party tonight, a kid told me that "[I] can burn in H-E-Double-Hockeysticks" for not going to church or even considering myself a Catholic anymore. Don't get me wrong. After a semester of studying the "philosophy" of the Puritans, I appreciate my Catholic up-bringing a little more. But what that kid said was the funniest thing I've heard in a long long long time.

December 15, 2004

December 14, 2004

Appetite is back and bad.

I had been losing my appetite and my sleep there for a few weeks. With several long nights of sleeping and being near the end of the semester (and already being 850 miles from school), things seem to be getting back to normal -- which is good, since we all know what those two symptoms can be an indication of, especially since such disorder runs in my family, especially when combined with a loss of interest in what gets you excited. And such. This is some homemade carrot cake, put together by my culinarily-talented mother-in-law. Yes, it was tasty, very tasty. In other good news, I am finished a draft of my last paper, a double-length essay on the Puritans' conception of Nature and junk. More on that when it's finished.

December 13, 2004

Getting that Yule-log cheery stuff.

I've slept for ten hours -- each -- two nights in a row. It's bliss. Too bad I'm not finished my work for the semester and am already in Baltimore with my family and hood. Put up my first Christmas tree this year, at my mother-in-law's house. Post some cheery photos soon. Listening to holiday tunes and drinking too much crappy coffee. It's that time of year when I post crap on the internet when I should be going to sleep so that I can get up and do some research and writing. But I'm still up. Still up. Night-e-night, party people. More stories and adventures soon.

December 08, 2004

All hail Fergy!

Good news for fans of "The Late Late Show." Today, CBS has announced that Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson will be the permanent replacement for Craig Kilborn. While I was sad to see Craigers go, Ferguson was definitely my favorite guest host of the four finalists. He starts his 12:35 a.m. ET tenure on January 3rd.

December 07, 2004

Once you go black.

Apologies in advance for another bitching-post. It's that time of semester -- which those of you attending or teaching at a university can relate to, I'm sure -- and I'm stressed out and in general feeling very critical about everything. So there. What's wrong with people? It's not bad enough that we have what I have heard called the civil rights issue of our generation that we're not dealing with very well: gay rights. We're still not through with the original civil rights issue regarding race, either. Before 1967, I would not have been allowed to marry the person that I did, because she is black and because I am white. Some of us got over that, didn't we? Not all of us, though. Remember that contraversial commercial a few weeks ago that involved Nicolette Sheridan and Terrel Owens? Come on, there was no more skin and no more sexual implications than in the very show that Ms. Sheridan stars in, let alone the soaps that the same network airs when kids are actually awake and flipping through the channels. People were pissed off because she was blonde and white and because Owens is black. You know that those Nascar dads and big Wal-Mart moms are horrified at the idea of a black man penetrating a white woman. You should see the stares my wife and I get sometimes around here. There are parts of the country I don't even like to get out of my car in while travelling, no matter how much I have to pee or how badly we need fuel. Is all hope lost? Are we really a country of bigots, closeted bigots and those very very few people who don't have their heads up their asses in 1630 or 1960? Are things getting better or worse? Shows like "Friends" continually put together inter-racial couples without having to point it out like something is wrong with it. Great. But the same show constantly made gay-jokes about all of the male cast members: "Dude, that's so gay." "Dude, you kissed a guy." While charges that the show was always a "white show" might be attenuated by their portrayal of inter-racial couples (which I think does really go further to advance true racial equality, at least on NBC, than merely having black cast members), the show was clearly homophobic from its debut in 1994 until that tearing ending in May 2004. And no one seemed to care or even notice. Gay jokes are funny, right [sic]? Can we assume that the generation leaving college and graduate school now is any less narrow-minded than our parents and grandparents? I knew plenty of homophobes in college and even a racist kid or two. That's just sad. Sometimes I want to run away to somewhere else. I can fake my way through a little German, and my wife is fluent in Spanish. If we could learn some French, we could run away to most European countries. I was a good Boy Scout and all that, and I have one of those yellow-ribbon-magnets on my car (that is, until some bastard stole it). I don't lack patriotism or love of my country. But I don't like it sometimes, more and more often now. You know how it is when you love someone, but they are in a stage where they are continually doing stupid and mean things, and you don't like them for a while, despite your continuing love? (Crappy example, I know.) That's how I feel about the US these days. It's not a giving up. If I ever left, it would never be for good, only to get away for a while and to return and remember what I love about living in the United States. I know that my veteran father always tells me when I call home and bitch that this is "the best country to live in." But is it right now? I know how whiny this all sounds, so please don't leave "If you hate this country so much, College Boy, leave" comments. Read what I said. I don't hate my country. It's precisely the love I have for my country that makes me so angry and makes me want to leave for a while. Besides, if you hate anyone who doesn't fit your narrow definition of patriotic (or you hate gay people and people of color and anyone who is a not exactly a Christian), then why the fuck are you reading this blog?

December 04, 2004

Does an "alternative lifestyle" have to be alternative?

I just watched a taped episode of CBS's "Cold Case" from three weeks ago. The episode centers around a young gay man who is murdered in 1983. I won't give away "who done it," but I will divulge that the episode unabashedly depicts gay men touching each other, hugging, cuddling -- nothing more "racey" than if the people involved were male and female. Holy Rollers, hold onto your bibles! I was very glad to see such a progressive approach to homosexual couples on what is a very good television show, but I didn't really think anything was up at first. It took me a few minutes to realize that stations don't usually nonchalantly show gay couples being affectionate or end a show with a gay wedding, especially not at 7:oo p.m. in the Heartland, especially not a network that just rejected a commercial showing a church that accepts homosexuals as just as good as you or me. It then occured to me that CBS did something great three weeks ago, then regressive this past week. Why the change in temper? I was tempted to just write off CBS as a network of hypocrites. They know that young, "progressive" people watch "Cold Case" and might be turned off if the show held back or otherwise implied that a couple consisting of two men ought not to be able to hug one another on network television, when a couple consisting of a man and woman can. But, they have to look out for "families" and cannot allow acceptance of homosexuals outside of "Cold Case." But that's not it. CBS rejected that commercial -- while producing and airing that episode of "Cold Case" -- for another reason. I think that it is hard for people with "family values" to swallow that a person can have an "alternative" lifestyle and still have faith or be a good Christian. It is inconceivable that a person can be homosexual and still be a "good" person who attends church and loves Jesus. The alternative lifestyle must be an alternative to the kind of lives the rest of us lead? I don't think people are willing to accept that being homosexual is a sexual orientation and not necessarily a different kind of lifestyle. What's the difference between me and someone else working on a PhD in philosophy who happens to be homosexual? Does he or she necessarily hate God's people? Is he or she more promiscuous than I am? Is he or she a threat to "our values"? Will he or she getting married ruin the "sacred institution" of the American family? Two PhD students in philosophy will do many of the same things and live very much the same lifestyle, even if one prefers members of the same sex. It's plainly stupid to think that someone will live a totally different, totally alternative lifestyle just because of who they prefer sexually. Is academia that different? Would not the same be true of other "lifestyles"? Are not homosexual and heterosexual people very much the same, save for our sexual preferences? What makes a homosexual: preference for the same sex, or promiscuity and moral uncleanliness? What makes a heterosexual: preference for the opposite sex, or family values and Christian love? Cannot homosexuals love God, God's people, Jesus and all the rest the same as heterosexual people? I don't think that the American public is ready to accept that. They think that homosexuality is really an entirely alternative lifestyle -- wholly unlike our own safe and tame heterosexual adventures, right? The fact that, when I have sex, I can maybe "make a baby" makes me more able to love Jesus and to embrace some kind of family values, right? Sheerly by virtue of the fact that I prefer women to men, I am capable of living a normal life? If everything about me stayed the same, but I suddenly preferred men, all of that would change? Because sexual preference determines everything, right down to your ability to love Jesus and your neighbor, right? Bullshit.

December 03, 2004

Photo Friday: Reflections II.

The sky in a puddle or occasional pond at Gettysburg, PA, at the foot of Little Round Top.

December 02, 2004

Down da Avenue, Hon.

The neighborhood that I grew up in has been transformed from a town of city-styled rednecks and racists to a hipster paradise. Unfortunately, Baltimore City has replaced the nice brick sidewalks on the Avenue with cement lately. On the bright side, the crappy hardware store is now a nice used bookstore (Salamander Books, where I spent way too much money last week). The sleazy video store is a Cloud 9. There are TWO coffee shops, and the restaurants get better and better. The old five and dime store is an upscale antique shop. There are two small apartment buildings going up on my parents' street. I can walk on the Avenue with my black wife, being white, and not be afraid of any ill consequences. I know that a lot of Hampdenites are not happy with the new developments, but -- as I've said before -- it's a hell of a lot better than the redneck dump Hampden was when I was growing up there and couldn't wait to leave. It's nice to not have to avoid mentioning where you grew up. Now, there is probably a tinge of snobbery when someone asks me where I am from: "Oh, Hampden? Damn, you're from the real Baltimore." You bet your ass, Hon.

November 30, 2004

A sick return.

No posts? My wife and I have been taking turns being sick for the last week, and we just got back from Maryland yesterday (Ah, the fun of marriage). I've made that drive on one hour of sleep once, but I did it yesterday on no real sleep at all. It's extra fun in the rain and sick and after an hour's back-up in Indiana, too. Despite my affection for the concoction that is our car, I didn't want to look at that damned thing today. I was attempting to upload some photos from Gettysburg and other things, but Blogger and Hello are acting up. Only one made it. At least the dapper fall color scheme is gone. I was actually freezing in flip-flops today and am delighted to discover that the new Mazda has great heating. Toasty. Winter seems like it's trying to take hold of the Heartland. Fine with me. I don't usually get sick much these days, especially since going veggie. The only thing that gets me sick is consistently not getting enough rest. It never fails, and travelling makes it worse. I suspect that not eating meat has little to do with my improved immune system; it is probably that not eating meat encourages one to eat more thoughtfully and that my nutritional intake has improved as a result of what I do eat, not what I don't. Or something like that. I cranked out the rest of a Husserl (AH!) draft this morning at 7 a.m. -- too damned tired to toy with those photos tonight.

November 26, 2004

Going to Gettysburg.

Headed to Gettysburg today, for the tradition Day After Thanksgiving Get Away From Shopping Escape. All apologies for the sudden silence. Holidays and all that. Photos of the battlefield and assorted Pennsylvania goodies.

November 24, 2004

Badges, we don't...you know.

It's dark, but you get the picture (oh, god). The 'Stang. Again. Too tired to write. Drove over 1,200 miles in the last week. Got an oil change in the Mazda at 7:45 a.m. -- more than wee mornin' to a grad student, to be sure. Had three 16 ounce cups of coffee and a 24 ounce (!) cafe' au lait. Hands shaking. Gotta pee. Head itches. Sweating. Heard the best "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke lately: Some Random Dude: Why did the chicken cross the road? Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain. Thank you.

November 23, 2004

New Mustang.

A preview of my mother's new 2005 Mustang. I've been too busy travelling, visiting, sleeping, being sick, in Baltimore to post much lately. More soon, though. Enlarge that Mustang photo. It's pretty.

November 18, 2004

Home home home.

Leaving at dawn for Baltimore, my hometown, to celebrate the holiday and to see family and friends from the coast. Stay tuned for some goodies from the city. A family member has a new Mustang that is coming in this weekend from being ordered and built, just in time for her birthday. If you haven't seen the 2005 Mustang yet, check it out.

November 17, 2004

Daydreaming: Not so bad?

Why Does Daydreaming Get Such a Bad Rap? Apparently, there are several benefits to be had from some good time-wasting, er, daydreaming: relaxation, managing conflicts, maintaining relationships, boosting productivity, "cementing" one's beliefs and values, boosting creativity and relieving boredom. Swell. Cementing one's beliefs does not sound like a benefit to me at all. St. Augustine writes in Against the Academics: "What the wise man maintains and follows he should hold not only with qualification but also steadfastly." What a bunch of crap! I prefer some kind of pluralism or fallabilism to being an ass about my so-called beliefs. Recall what Mr. Keenan says about beliefs, i.e., that they are "dangerous" and "allow the mind to stop functioning." Even good old Thoreau doesn't necessarily claim that we should cement our beliefs, only that we should always act consistently with them. But I ramble. And I have to rest for my 13-14 hour drive Friday to the East Coast. For someone with ADD -- like me -- this news of daydreaming not being such a bad thing is welcome information. I'd hate to think that I'm doing something harmful to myself during most of my "waking" hours. Now, if only I could score me some of that "boosted productivity," I'd be in good shape.

November 14, 2004

Return of The Darkness.

With how unhappy many people seem to me to be becoming in post November 2nd America, I hereby predict a return to Sartrian Existentialism in the near future. I was talking to two old friends of mine from my first grad school at our philosophy conference this weekend, and P. says that Sartre is not really in fashion anymore. To be sure, he just might be right. I had a hell of a time finding Sartre's book on Baudelaire, and there's still only one English translation of Being and Nothingness that I know about. But I suspect that some people are going to become so...discouraged with the outcome of the election that they will start to "question" things, as the cliche' goes. "Mr. Bush was elected seemingly fairly. What does that say about our country? The Constitution is meaningless. The soul of our country is dead. It's all meaningless. I need to buy some black turtle-necks and thick glasses, and I need to learn French."* Or something like that. I don't mean to imply that I will be going over to the dark side or that I necessarily espouse a gloomy world view, however. I only own a few black peaces of clothing. I don't speak any French. And the Christian Right scares me a hell of a lot more than Bush does, really. Nonetheless, I predict a spike in the sales of Sartre's books and that the chromatic tide among the philosophically-inclined segment of the population will become darker and more be-spectacled. Personally, I love Sartre. It's not perfect, by any means, but his account of our encounter with "the other" is superior to any other such account with which I am familiar, from Husserl to Levinas to Hobbes. I'll write about that one day on this here bloggy. Wanna read some good stuff? Come to Carbondale, and I'll let you borrow some good books. This is going to be the future, anyway. Don't you want to be prepared? If, on the other hand, my prediction is incorrect, well, then, it's just....uh....a joke that you didn't get. Yeah. That's. It. *[Not my views, honest.] --------------------------------------------------------------------- It seems that I may have implied that I thought Existentialism was itself The Darkness, per a thoughtful comment. To be sure, Sartre categorically denies charges of pessimism in "Existentialism Is a Humanism" also contained in this book, both of which are excellent and very accessible introductions to Sartre's philosophy. Sartre's philosophy is not The Darkness itself but is, rather, a response to or way of dealing with The Darkness. Sartre's philosophy could not have achieved the popularity and attention that it did were it not for the pre-existing Darkness. Sartre seems to me to pick up where the "existence is meaningless" claim leaves of, since he largely pre-supposes such a metaphysical position, in addition to the assumption of the absense of God. Implying that Sartre's philosophy is itself The Darkness was clearly my mistake, and I apologize accordingly.

November 13, 2004

Baby got back.

At the rist of sounding piggish, the possible consequences of this just make me so happy that I think I'll finish my coffee and do a little dance before I head out to our conference today: "Big-Bottomed Mannequins Boost Profile in New York."

November 11, 2004

DSL is rad.

DSL is very nice to have. Yes. It is. Really. This photo was uploaded with exceptional speed. Isn't that nice? Those are my feet on the Ohio River in Paducah, Kentucky. Pardner. Have to get up early and drive to St. Louis tomorrow, which is actually a fun drive through farm country. I have two CDs of good road music to keep me company.

November 10, 2004

Reaching across lines.

Despite the differences in our political views, I heartily recommend this post from Fray Dog. He's right. We all need to reach out. Leaving for Canada (or France, or Germany, or Australia, etc.) at this point really doesn't make any sense. And so long as Pat Robertson and company are not in power any more than they are, leaving is really the cowards' way out. For now. Ask me in five years, and, if the Christian Right weilds more power (which I doubt and which can't be very desirable for anyone in either party who is not some zealous nutjob), and you may have to find me far far away. Now, though, is the time to reach across those lines and work something out. We have a hell of a mess to clean up in Iraq and plenty of other work to do. Okay, no more politics from me for a while. I don't usually rant like this. Oh, but one more thing that I can't resist. Good riddance Mr. Ashcroft. Thank you, and goodnight.

November 07, 2004

TaliBAD?

The Taliban is evil because they are a group of religious nuts who do mean things like kill people and bomb stuff. We like to think of them as nuts -- not evangelists or even zealots -- because they don't love Jesus. They took over a country/region and then condemned everyone who failed to conform to their wacked-out beliefs. They took away some people's rights just because of who they are. Okay. But it's perfectly fine for Americans to do it, so long as such facists (ah, the F-word!) like James Dobson are "good Christians" and are looking out for our kids and the "sanctity of marriage"? I dont' hold any degrees in linguistics or philology or etymology, but does "sanctity" mean "for some, and we get to choose who"? Why are we handing over control of our country to religious nuts, some of whom used to be drunks (i.e., Dubbya himself) and are thereby supposed to somehow understand Jesus more? I've heard the argument made that our country was "founded" on "Christian principles." I'm damned sick of getting emails (from people who know my religious tendencies) which argue that we should have prayer -- Christian prayer -- at everything from public schools in Massachusetts to NFL games, because "most" of us are Christian, and everyone else is as free to shut up their ears as some are to pray that their team wins over the public address system. Anyone who claims that our country was founded on explicitely Christian principles has simply never taken the time to read our nation's founding documents. The fact that some of the first crazies over here from Europe were fanatical Christians and that the Founding Fathers were Christians does not mean that our country was founded on Christian principles. Read the Constitution for crapsakes. Patrick Leahy hates God's people? And? What does that have to do with the US Senate? Who the hell are God's people? The Taliban thinks it's them. But no, we say, they don't even believe in Jesus! Jesus! It's up to James Dobson and that bastard leprechaun Pat Robertson to tell us how we manage to be right about being God's people and that everyone else is wrong and that a US Senator can hate God's people and manage to fool everyone and get elected by the God's people that he hates and that is why he is evil and that Bush is a hero for bombing people to death and destroying an entire nation but that Bin Laden is an evil terrorist sent by the Devil himself for doing a very similar thing. Geez, these guys have a lot of work to do? What are they doing on television and the internet? Osama says, "Terrorist? Bigot? Evil? Hold the fuck up. I know you are, but what am I?" I have nothing against Christians or Muslims or atheists or anyone else, just because of what they believe or don't believe. While people like the Family Guy and the Leprechaun give a lot of good Christians a bad name and while killers like Bin Laden give lovely muslims a bad name, I like to think I am capable of seeing that such haters and bigots are the exception and not the rule. I never said the contrary, nor did I imply it. So don't tell me that I hate God's people please. I love most of God's people, really, sucka.

November 05, 2004

Photo Friday: Radiant.

For this week's Photo Friday Challenge: Radiant. The sun reflected in a pool of water under the cliff near Devil's Standtable trail at Giant City State Park (that's a mouthfull). Here also is some water dripping from the cliff into another pool, shot with a very high shutter speed (you have to click and enlarge it to really see the water).

November 04, 2004

Finally cold enough for shoes.

It was finally cold enough for shoes and socks today, well, for me, anyway. I noticed people staring at my sandals yesterday (as they scurried around in scarves and coats), and I realized that maybe I should break in my new shoes. The last time I had socks on was on a camping trip in Maryland in May, and that was only while I was getting the gunk out of my Tevas from a long hike along the Gunpowder river. These are, of course, standard issue shoes for any and all vegetarians, though that's not the only reason I wanted them.

November 02, 2004

Tired of watching the poll results?

Me, too. Here are some fun diversions, with which I am diverting myself in posting thereby, uh, for your diversionary pleasure, er, you get it, right? This is one of the funniest things I have ever seen on the internet, sent to me by my very good friend Dan. (See that dude above? That's Dan.) Make sure you have your sound on, and, yes, it's safe for work -- no foul language, honest, not that there's anything wrong with foul language, etc.: Badger. Further, some interesting pages on how the top two American pencil manufacturers make their pencils: Papermate Dixon Ticonderoga And did you know that Thoreau was instrumental in bringing American pencils up to the standards of the then-superior French and German pencil manufacturers? See this article and this article. And here's why pencils are usually yellow. I hate yellow pencils. I like unfinished or black-painted ones. Yup. Bored more with these too-much-coffee typings? Blame Dan, my fellow pencil aficionado.

DSL, baby.

One of the crappiest things about living in a relatively isolated area is the lack of certain amenities we take for granted when living in the city. Thanks to Dave, I now know that we can get Verizon DSL in the southern-most end of Carbondale. We are too...dependent on MSN Premium to give it up, but I was not and would not be jazzed about the idea of paying for DSL and then paying again for MSN. Our apartment is only three years old, and it's already wired for a local DSL provider. Now, I have nothing against local or regional businesses, which I like to support whenever I can. But I am not going to pay more money for less service, i.e., no 24-hour support, no free hardware, etc. Getting a cable modem was out of the question -- too tempting to get cable networks and watch too much television. So, we are getting the same service we already have (which I have been happy with for three years and in two states), much faster, and it will cost only coffee-and-a-treat-for-two more a month than we are paying now. Delicious.

November 01, 2004

Later, October.

I wish I had been born in October. I was born at the end of August, but I was born several weeks early and should have graced the world with my whining in mid-to-late-September. October is my favorite month, and I'm sad that it's over so quickly. I got to the state park and out of doors a bit early on, but it got humid, hot and grey after the second half of the month. I wish I got outside more this October, at least to sit on my balcony and watch the sunset over some coffee or tea or beer. That photo is of dried leaves on my balcony at sunset this past Saturday. Here is one of my favorite Thoreau essays, for your reading pleasure: "Autumnal Tints." The essay speaks for itself, and it contains one of my favorite Thoreau quotations, which I have on a coffee cup I bought at The Shop at Walden Pond in October of 2001 (did I mention this mug before?): "October is the month of painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world. As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint just before they fall, so the year near its setting. October is its sunset sky; November the later twilight."

October 29, 2004

Photo Friday: Still Life.

For this week's Photo Friday challenge, "Still Life." Leaves in the quad at SIU Carbondale.

October 27, 2004

Those are my shorts; don't wear 'em out.

"No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch in his clothes; yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience." ~H. D. Thoreau This is a pair of linen shorts that I bought in the summer of 2001, when I graduated from college and moved to Boston to start graduate school. I wore them hiking this past weekend to see The Devil's Standtable (photos to come), came home, took them out of the wash, and I figured out that I have actually worn them out, as you can see. I had owned those shorts for three years and had worn them on a three-day train ride from Boston to Chicago to Houston, on hikes, camping trips, around Boston and Baltimore, on 12-14 hour car-drives, to graduate seminars and caf├ęs, on the subway in Boston. I had probably spilled coffee, tea, beer, soda and water on them countless times. It's not that they were my only shorts, by any means. I'm ashamed to admit that I have been known to be a clothes-horse at times, though I have had considerable success over the last year in curing that sickness. They were merely my favorite shorts, and I wore the hell out of them. Why is this a big deal? How many times do we actually wear out our clothes? I, for one, am guilty of either closeting a piece of clothing, giving it away or otherwise not letting it live and die its proper course as human attire, by being worn out. I will also admit that I am not going to patch these shorts and wear them anyway, as Thoreau suggests. My nineteenth century American history is faulty at best, but I am a bit certain that clothing was a lot harder to get in Thoreau's time, not to mention a lot more costly. Henry also didn't have television and the cinema to tempt him, but that's another story. Maybe I'm just making excuses for myself. And maybe I am reading meaning into something that is not as unusual as I am making it out to be. Regardless, I feel really good about wearing stuff out. I have a pair or two of jeans -- of which I admittedly have entirely too many -- I am working on next.

October 24, 2004

For Sal.

A response to Sal's question, because he's a cool guy, and I can't seem to find his email address around here: It seems that the police officer who told me at the scene of the Focus massacre that she couldn't give the bastard who wrecked our car a speeding ticket "because [she] didn't see what happened" wrote in her report that I turned in front of an SUV that was speeding through a bus-stop around traffic and that the whole accident is my fault. If she saw what she apparently says she saw, she should have given me a ticket, too, according to her version of my part in the accident. She didn't take witness statements, even from the lady who approached us to tell us there was another accident at that intersection that week (who sounds like a person who watches the street and just might have seen something, you would think). The officer's beat was on the other side of town (literally). I think she wasn't supposed to be there. I'm totally filing a complaint. Maryland's laws governing traffice accidents just don't work. I thought about taking the old bastard to court, but -- even if he paid for our new car, too -- it would not be worth the drama of traveling back and forth to the East Coast, really. I just want it to be over-with, minus getting screwed with the insurance hikes. In other crappy driving news, we almost sent another old man to his grave today, as he unabashedly broke a traffic law and tested Mazda's 60-0 mph breaking distance. There is an intersection on Illinois Route 51 just south of Carbondale where the traffic on 51 has no stop sign (it's a highway), which is clearly posting for the entering traffic: "Cross-Traffic Does Not Stop." Some stupid Mattlock Jackass Too-Old-To-Drive-A-Car-With-A-V8 decides to test this particular law as I am cruising at 55-60 mph (the speed limit). Mazda did some weird things to the new "3" -- including installing a startlingly loud horn. I see that the idiot is thinking about going and not looking. I blow the foghorn on the tiny "3." He slowly pulls out onto the highway (mind you, he should be flooring it to get up to speed with the rest of traffic). Then, spying the silver hatchback coming directly for his driver's side door, he stops. Yes, he stops. Our $900 (extra) braking system comes in handy as a slam on the breaks and jerk our car around this moron. We're off in some stones, stopped and stunned, and what does he do? He leaves and keeps going. I have half of a mind to spin the car around and tail him to town and scream at him in my Baltimore accent in the parking lot of Wal-Mart or wherever the hell old men drive slowly to on Sundays. But we are on our way to a nice hike to Devil's Standtable down in the state park, and I am shaking enough that aggressive driving might not be a good idea. Anyway, my wife was pretty freaked out, and I was a little disturbed at the idea of what our car would have done to him, seeing as how there was only a piece of metal and some plastic between our car and his actual person. (I have a very good friend who lost a love by being hit in the side, and he almost died himself that night.) Then I thought about the fact that I am usually aware enough of people's stupidity (especially in their cars) to be on the look-out for it and that if I were not expecting him to do what he did, we'd both be in the hospital tonight, if he wasn't dead. So, the way I think of it, my awareness saved that guy's sorry ass today. That thought is good for helping the freaking out, but I'm still angry that people who are that incapable of driving are still allowed behind the wheel. And I'm still disturbed by the idea that you never see the one that gets you -- like when 68-year-olds speed through bus-stops in gigantic SUVs and then hide behind an incompetent police officer and a stupid law.

October 23, 2004

I Heart Huckabees.

Go see it. It's worth your time and money, and there's a Moleskine in it. You heard it here first. I heart I Heart Huckabees.

October 22, 2004

Photo Friday: Statement.

For this week's Photo Friday challenge, "Statement." I've had a pretty crappy week, so this is a photo of me relaxing -- contemplating the foam knife in my head, rather than racking my brain over why I have to pay for the accident wherein a 68-year-old jackass in an SUV totalled my car in May, why I can't stop obsessing over pencils, why I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping, or why the hell I can't get any work done.

October 20, 2004

Late Birthday Gifts.

Two weeks ago, I received the mostest awesomest birthday gifts someone who loves Thoreau can receive: his complete journals. Volumes i-vii and volumes viii-xiv. All of them. Half is from my wife, the other from my parents. The photo is terrible, I know. I do receive unusual gifts sometimes from my parents, but it's always what I want, so I suppose it's me who is unusual. While most people probably get either beer or Advil or a bible on their 21st birthdays, I received the annotated edition of Walden, purchased at Walden Pond in April 2000, from my parents. I remember being in "Advanced Poetry Workshop" as an undergraduate, and having to read some John Donne. Knowing this, I requested and received this gorgeous edition of Donne's complete poems. (Geez, now I sound like some spoiled brat.) My professor asked me where I got it, and I told her that my parents gave it to me as a Christmas gift. She thought it was the weirdest thing in the world, though to be fair, she thought the same of me. (Unfairly.) The best gifts are those strange things you want but don't want to spend money on yourself or think you don't deserve. I've given people engraved Space Pens, Moleskines, expensive or antique books, French presses, fancy pencils, backpacks -- all things people I care about were coveting but did not buy for themselves for one reason or another. I've received an autographed copy of Doctorow's ordered-out-of-print-book Big as Life, Thoreau and Poe volumes, a fountain pen, The Boy Scout Fieldbook, watches, journals and Canadian beer in liter cans. Those unusual sundries are certainly the best gifts to give -- and the best gifts to receive, though which is better is another matter entirely.

October 19, 2004

Splish splash.

This little guy was splashing around in a puddle at the Makanda Vulture Fest Saturday, a gorgeous day after a week of rain. The photo is a bit blury, but he was really getting down with that puddle!

October 15, 2004

Photo Friday: Unexpected.

For this week's Photo Friday challenge, "Unexpected." It's unexpected because I am quite certain that no one was outside of the apartment building raking leaves and because there is only this one relatively small pile. Heck, most leaves haven't changed, let alone fallen, and today is forcasted to be insanely windy. Why would a person rake this early and then have to do it again? That someone could have been right under my balcony raking, under these conditions, this time of year, this suddenly and without any noise just could not have happened. This mound is in a corner, and I am quite certain that the wind made this little pile. We've all seen the wind pulling together throngs of leaves and twisting them around in mini twisters. Maybe a renegade gust made my little leaf dune. That, or Industrious David snuck into my coffee stash, got hopped up on French Roast, stole my car, went to the hardware store and bought a rake, fought off our resident wildlife and raked leaves into that solitary little pile all by himself. Right.

October 14, 2004

Green Kerry.

President Bush says that Senator John Kerry is "incredibly environmentally green." Geez, and that's a bad thing? See what the nation's most influential environmental group thinks of Kerry. And, to be fair, this is what they think of Bush.

October 12, 2004

Philosopher waxes meteorological.

I have a theory about the weather: I am told that some unfortunate souls are affected adversely by a lack of sunlight in the winter and the occasional multi-week stretch of rain and grey skies. I am affected at times with the latter constant greyness but not necessarily the lack of sunlight that bothers some folks in the winter months. Until a few days ago, we had been experiencing piercing sunlight and blue skies for weeks on end. It didn't hit me until this weekend, when the rain and clouds showed up, that perhaps the sleep and eating irregularities I had been experiencing had something to do with the weather. I think that too much sun for long periods of time keeps me from being able to sleep and to rest and that the damp, cool, fog has come in and given me back my good sleep and, thus, my energy. I've been sleeping very well lately and have been getting work done. I'm not going to quote Garbage songs, ("I'm only happy when it rains...") since rainy greyness is not necessarily my preferred weather. I love Poe and Baudelaire, but I certainly do not purport to have some darkness in my soul or a dark world-outlook which makes me hate the sun and love the moon or skulls or some such nonsense. My point is that a lack of such soupy weather for too long leaves me restless and on edge. Now wait until we have weeks of no sun for me to complain the other way around. And, of course, my little theory only counts for me, since I comprise the entire test group.

October 10, 2004

Goings on of late.

Panoramic of the Ohio River, Paducah, Kentucky. Have had a very busy week. We played hooky from the university last Monday to trek to Paducah, Kentucky -- a quiet little river town in northwestern Kentucky that is across the river from Illinois and is the place where three large rivers meet. I found a copy of Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines at a shop there for a mere $4 that I hope I will get to read soon. Despite the legends of "Kentucky rednecks" and such, the folks of northwestern Kentucky are very nice and some of the friendliest people I've come across. And so polite! I otherwise had a busy week and didn't get to post much, not that I got any work done at all. On Thursday night, we drove all of the way to and through St. Louis, Missouri to pick up a Harvard historian from the airport for a talk she was giving Friday at SIU. She really is a lovely person, and her talk was excellent. My wife knows her from her years at the Crimson Stain (my term, thanks), so she spent several hours with us at our home Friday night, over numerous cups of coffee, talking about history, academia and reading. A wonderful person, really. She's as un-Harvard as they come, and I mean that as a very high compliment. I'm re-committing to getting more work done this week, damn it. And I have the perfect film as inspiration: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It's such a lucid depiction of frenzied studying and genius at work that it gives me, at least, something to strive to. None of that "playing god" business, though. Really, I have no talents for science, and I'm certainly no genius.

Moleskines across the world.

If you find yourself drawn to Moleskine notebooks but if -- for some reason -- you've never visited Moleskinerie, you might like to check out the site and the community to participate in the Wandering Moleskine Project.

October 09, 2004

R.I.P. Jacques.

One of the most famous living philosophers has died. Jacques Derrida died today in Paris, of pancreatic cancer. I'm not necessarily a fan at all of deconstructionism, but this is certainly a loss for the philosophical community as a whole. Very sad.

October 06, 2004

Just a hint of color.

We have a relatively warm and extremely humid climate in Southern Illinois, so the leaves are just beginning to show their colors this autumn. I found a spot yesterday where, among green maple trees, there was one which was totally yellow and another that was totally orange. Non-conformist trees, those two.

October 05, 2004

Ah, the debate.

Regardless of what I'm sure lots of people will say, I cannot award either Vice Presidential canditate victory in tonight's debate. What an informative and...even debate! Yes, the Vice President was getting nasty, buy he really calmed down after Senator Edwards' complimentary remarks about his family. Things were not entirely civil at times, but I think that both candidates really did a fine job of laying out their bosses' positions for informational purposes and for the benefit of undecided voters. Damn it, this is what debates are for. The bits of nastiness aside, there is a winner after all, perhaps: the debate itself.

Dear Undergrads, Re: Majors.

With the exception of what grad programs are looking for (i.e., if you are looking at physics MS programs and majored in theatre, you're probably out of luck), one's choice of major means very little in real life, according to this article. And Hugh Hefner majored in philosophy. Am I in good or bad company, then?

October 04, 2004

Ten Oh Four.

Seven years ago, I went out on a date with the most beautiful woman in the world. One year ago, I married her. Bliss, I tell you. Bliss.

September 30, 2004

Time for a new Moleskine.

So I filled up another Moleskine notebook yesterday, the one I started in Baltimore right after the Focus massacre of May 2004. This one has lots of scribblings on using wooden pencils versus gel pens but then how I read my journals all of the time and how I would be afraid to touch them in pencil but also how Pilot G2 ink is messier than a fountain pen. Yes, I told myself, Hemingway used pencils in the notebooks that are allegedly Moleskines, but his only other portable choice in 1920s Paris would have been fountain pens, and not the relatively neat kind we have today. But Pilot's gel ink is archival safe and so black, and their blue is my favorite blue ink ever. Etc. Oh, etc. In truth, I wasted at least a quarter of the book on such pointless musings, and that estimate is mainly and intentionally false. Other than my chubby little 2005 diary (didn't like the new weekly format for 2005), I've also had a large ruled notebook waiting for me on the shelf for some time now. I bought the latter before I left for Baltimore in May at the Barnes and Noble in Carbondale, the only place anywhere near here to get them. I hadn't had one of the large format books before, and I didn't want to start filling it with angry thoughts about the old jerk in the SUV that totalled my car or with ranting about car insurance companies or what cars I was looking to replace the Focus with. And I had just finished my pocket version by pasting the blog posts about the car accident into it. Bigger, baby, but better? I watched The Saint just before leaving for Baltimore, and, envying Thomas Moore's book in the film, I wanted a larger Moleskine in which I would be more...selective in using up pages and in which I would paste more of other people's work that I find inspiring or just worth reading repeatedly. Sort of a journal/commonplace book combo, with a larger diary for pocket-toting notes on the go. Seemed like a good system. Too bad that I used up my pocket notebook before it's time to break out the 2005 chubby diary (I still have my weekly 2004 version). Oh, well, it's not like the large Moleskine is really that large, is it? I'm going to write in it tomorrow, if not tonight. I promise.

September 29, 2004

Banned books week.

Once again, it's Banned Books Week. I have a pin from when I worked at a bookstore as an undergraduate, but I can't seem to place it. Darn. One could print this button, anyway, and stick it around. And here is the list of the 100 most widely-banned books.

September 28, 2004

Full moon doesn't mean squat?

There's a full moon tonight, and it seems that some lady thinks it means nothing. I'd believe her more if she named at least one of "the studies" she's talking about, etc. That's bad research, man.

September 27, 2004

Hmm.

Haven't posted in some time. Sorry. I haven't been busy, but bored, really. You'd think that would be a reason to post more, not less. Oops. It's cooling off in the Heartland, by small degrees (no pun intended). It's cooler at night, so the AC can be off after dinner. I haven't pulled out a sweater yet, and shoes and socks are certainly still a number of weeks off. Too bad, since I have some swell new Converse Allstars to wear (guess what color) from my birthday a few weeks ago. I watched a good fall film this weekend: Moonlight Mile. It is set on the North Shore of Massachusetts, though, and it makes me miss my two years there. Despite the fact that no one seems to have noticed the film when it came out almost exactly two years ago, it's really excellent. The music is well-chosen and well-placed in the film, too. If you are bored, it's worth a rent. It's not as sad as it sounds. I am reviewing a few papers for our department's upcoming philosophy conference. I have a lot of free time for the time being, so I felt like I ought to help out. We manage to get some "big names" to commit as key-note speakers. We had the secretary of SPEP last year, and we have Boston College's own philosopher of "otherness" this year (with whom I once had a course). With SIU's...unfortunate geographical location, we are lucky to get anyone to come all of the way out here for speaking engagements. No posting, now rambling. Things will look up, promise.

September 24, 2004

September 23, 2004

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Being a huge Wes Anderson fan, I was elated to see the poster for his newest film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at the local theatre over the summer. I was disappointed when it was taken down however, and now I hear that it's not due out until December. Nonetheless, I'm sure it will be worth the wait. Bill Murray was in precious little of The Royal Tenebaums, even after his stellar performance in Rushmore. Old Bill is the star of this one. The star. Officially. Maybe he'll get that Oscar this time around.

September 22, 2004

Happy equinox!

Today, at 11:30 a.m. US Central Time, my favorite season officially begins. It's the autumnal equinox. Sorry I don't have a better photo; I didn't have a digital camera last fall. More later, on how I approached some deer last night outside of the homestead and got an eerie photo of one's eyes.

September 21, 2004

September 20, 2004

Mona Lisa Smile.

So I got talked into watching Mona Lisa Smile this weekend, and I'm going to subject you to my half-cocked review;) An Amazon.com reviewer called it Dead Poets Society for girls. That's not true at all, and I don't say that because Dead Poets Society was a much better film or because I am male and went to thirteen years of private schooling before college and thereby could always relate to it. In Dead Poets Society, John Keating (pun intended, I'm sure) encourages his students to think for themselves, to make their lives extraordinary, to live deliberately, etc. His message has a meaning that transcends the specificity of, say, 1950s Wellesley, where Mona Lisa Smile is set. John Keating's message is no less relevant now that it was in the 1950s, when it was set, or in 1989, when it was released. He encouraged his students to "follow their own way," and they all did, all through different means, with varying degrees of success. In Mona Lisa Smile, on the other hand, Miss Watson just wants the young women she teaches to reject their culturally prescribed roles uncritically. There is a scene where she berates an honor student who gets married and opts out of law school in order to follow her husband to his graduate school. The student has to tell Miss Watson that this is what she wants, that she really thought about it, that she is not settling for anything. There is another scene where Miss Watson's love interest tells her that she is not at Wellesley to change anything for the better or to encourage young women to think for themselves. She's there to get them to think her way. And he's totally right. I'm not going to set myself up for nasty email (!) by pretending that I really know anything about feminism, despite my four years at a girls' college, where I was good friends with very nice and very good feminists. But there is certainly something wrong with closed-mindedly rejecting something and single-mindedly doing the opposite and then calling that freedom. One is then still under the control of what one is rejecting. That seems simple and obvious enough. In the end, I didn't like Miss Watson the character at all. What she decides to do at the end of the film undercuts all of the good she manages to do up until that point. "Okay, I touched four or five people's lives. That's enough. I'm outty 5000." Right. She should have been more like John Keating. They had to kick him out.

September 17, 2004

Thoreauvians?

What's up with so damned many people running around talking about how much they love Thoreau and what a damned Thoreau expert they are because they read excerpts from a chapter of Walden in their high school American Literature compendium? Walter Harding correctly points out that Walden is one of those books that everyone talks about, quotes from and even owns, but not many people actually read the whole book. I can count maybe five people who I know personally whom I am aware for a fact have read the whole book -- not including, of course, the many people who have read it but I don't know it as such. Forgive me my terrible facts and figures. I'm not going to name names, but I read a paper on Thoreau this morning that was just terrible. Awful. It was pointless, badly written, derivative, unoriginal and a waste the paper it was printed on. Really, that someone killed trees to print this garbage is just a crime. I was rather irrate for most of the morning because of this horrible essay. How can someone read Walden -- even if one reads the entire book -- and then download two or three essays from [very] questionable sources on the internet and then declare oneself a Thoreau scholar? If that were William James, it would be different. If someone read Pragmatism and two essays from the internet and then wrote a public paper, he or she would be laughed at, openly. How the hell does a person think he or she can encapsulate a philosopher from such a small sampling of his or her work? That's not yet even vanity. It's naivety. I think this comes from the fact that so many serious "philosophers" don't consider Thoreau a proper philosopher at all. Most people are reluctant to even call Emerson a philosopher and usually only do so if one is talking about "American Philosophy." After all, we don't have much that we've contributed to the great Western philosophical dialogue, have we? But when it comes to Thoreau, reticence is the best we can hope for. Luckily for me, my department is the "American Philosophy" department. Everyone knows that. We don't ignore Thoreau or Emerson or even Uncle Walt Whitman. Hell, there was a graduate seminar on Transcendentalism last semester. I didn't take it, however, since studying that particular band of my heros would just seem...blasphemous to me. When someone asks my religion and I reply with "Transcendentalist of the most nefarious sort," I'm not joking. I'll be the first to proclaim that I don't know anything about the real Thoreau. I've read lots and lots and lots of what he said and lots and lots and lots of what people said (and say) about him. I am pretty familiar with his life, down to his innovations in American pencil manufacturing. But what does that amount to? If Thoreau came to my apartment and saw all of the books with his name on the spine on my shelves (whether under the title or author field), he'd kick me in my bulbous ass -- or want nothing to do with me. What good is reading Thoreau, really, and then going about one's business like Walden is just a nice story and as if John Brown is just some nut who finally got his civic due? I started working on a paper on Thoreau yesterday, but I didn't get anything finished today. Writing about Thoreau, Walden especially, makes me feel like a hypocrite. What the hell am I, a PhD student in philosophy -- itself an oxymoron, really -- doing inside, in an office in a concrete monstrosity (really, you should see Faner Hall), writing about Thoreau, as if that's even a possible manner of really getting to the heart of what he means? As if getting to the heart of what he means is really the point? As if Thoreau really has a "point" for us? At times like that, I feel like I should give in my office keys to the department, empty my desk and go learn carpentry from my friends in Maryland. What a truer existence that would be! But my vocational frustrations are a digression from my initial gripe. There is hope, however, for my original complaint of people spouting off about Thoreau. There are people I have never met but nonetheless am drawn to on the internet who seem to me to certainly really "get" Thoreau, despite their complete lack of pretentions to such a status (and I mean that as the highest compliment, I do). Greg Perry has a nice blog where he simple posts a passage from Thoreau's journal for the blogoshere. What a wondeful thing to do for all of us! And Lorianne and Gary likewise understand and are the people who pointed Greg's blog to me in the first place. Some of my friends capture something that whispers to you when you read "Walking" that makes me feel honored to know them. Even some of the lessons my parents taught me speak of an understanding of where Thoreau is coming from. So all is not lost. For every twenty idiots that don't understand the surface of Thoreau -- let alone the nadir of his life and message -- there is one person who really gets it and exudes a truer and more deliberate life from their very pores. And that makes up for all it, now that I think of it.

September 16, 2004

Punch-drunk philosopher.

If you are a regular reader, then you know that I am not a heavy drinker. Not at all. I suppose that, if I did drink more like my doctor told me to in Boston, I would be a bit more relaxed or laid-back or at least less prone to worrying about things like car accidents or testicular cancer (my friend got it three years ago, and I'm in the age group: 18-30) or what impression I make on my fellow grad students in the department or on my professors or the fact that -- because I have a fellowship and do not have to teach yet and because I am one reticent bastard -- I don't know very many people in my department. I don't think that drinking would make me relax per se, but the same sentiment which would let me allow myself to have a drink more often may be the one that would help me relax. So I'm pretty drunk right now. I know, it's annoying when people blog drunkenly. Sorry. But I thought that the sentiment which would allow me to relax could use a little help. He's not a strong sentiment, and that fear of wrecking the Mazda or of getting a cancerous testicle removed is one strong little son of a bitch, and he wants domination. Screw him. I'm only 25, and I have plenty of time to worry about things in the future, no? Besides, getting drunk and confessing to people I've never met in different countries might be at least a little cathartic, right? I don't know. My regularly punch-drunk* behavior is usually balanced by caffeine, but not so much with the vodka (which is Sky, since the guy who makes it is in Mensa -- "The High I.Q. Society" -- to which I used to belong, until I got sick of paying the dues and until I realized that putting it on my C.V would only make me sound like a tool -- yeah, I fooled Mensa. Me, a genius? Nah. Hah!). Excuse me. My confession turns to rambling and goes too far, and I'm not quite coordinated enough for editing or spell-checking. Shit, this mess is going out to the internet. Oh, well. If you don't think I'm nuts already, now you know. "And knowing is half the battle. G.I. Joe!" *[I have some weird head injuries, including some concussions (football in gym class, falling out of a tree, busting my head wide open once, etc.) and a dent from my forcepts birth (really). Maybe that explains a lot, including my choice of vocation.]

September 15, 2004

Ernie...

Hemingway makes my life seem boring. I don't really still have my base urge to go shoot something and eat it, no, not anymore. I haven't read any Hemingway in a month, and I picked up The Sun Also Rises last night (a birthday gift from a friend who knows me very well). Graduate school is dull, sometimes. Damn. Oh, well. Today is my "long day" -- seminars from 9:30-4:30. Most people work longer everyday, right? I have a pretty good situation, I suppose.

September 14, 2004

On this day in 1814.

Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star-Bangled Banner," inspired by events which ocurred in Baltimore, Maryland. Legend has it that he was at the location of the bridge now named after him at the time of the unsuccessful attack by the British on Fort McHenry. Here is a panoramic view of one side of the fort I had been meaning to work on for a month now. It is composed of six large photos stitched together. Sorry it looks small, though you can get a better view by clicking on it.

September 11, 2004

I remember.

The giant flag at Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland. June 2004. I remember everything about 9.11.01: what I was wearing, where I was, how I found out, how I freaked out because I couldn't reach my father to make sure he was not at the Pentagon that day, how I chain-smoked and saw the fighter planes flying over Boston, etc. I don't want to recount the details and relive it. I'm sure no one does. That's not what remembering 9.11.01 means.

September 09, 2004

Frosh on the Run: A Stolen Picture.

Freshman, first week of classes, two weeks ago. Another "stolen picture." How do I know it's a freshman? I'm in my eighth straight year of classes. I've gone to a tiny liberal arts school, to a first-tier private research university and to a public university. Believe me, I can tell. Most people can. Geez, I didn't mean to sound like a know-it-all jerk. Sorry.

I love bats.

Like spiders, bats keep the creepy-crawlies off of me. My grandfather says that I have "sweet meat" -- to explain why bugs seem to seek me out of a crowd for their consumption. Those natural predators (spiders and bats) do what bug sprays usually fail to do: keep me from getting eaten alive. I have an unpleasant story about a canoeing trip at Boy Scout camp in 1994, when I was almost 15, wherein I almost had to be hospitalized because of the high fever I was running and my head's swelling, after being a snack for too many skeeters at the river's edge one night. I was pretty ill for a few days, and the pictures of what my head looked like are more than a little embarrassing. I should start carrying wolf spiders and little bats in my backpack, like Zarathustra traveled with a snake and an eagle.

September 08, 2004

Bad little bunny huggers.

That's quite an indictment of PETA, including a link to an article by my home-town newspaper. Not that far from true, me thinks. I'm not sure I think about this site, however. I'm too tired to read much about it. And Matt LeBlanc is obese? Whatever. I'm still going to sit on my ass, drinking coffee, watching his new show tomorrow night. I've been very lazy lately, and, frankly, it's too early in the semester for that. Damn it.

Wonderful.

It's chilly this morning in the Heartland. I know that our meteorologists say this is still too soon to settle in with some coffee or chai and to expect this to continue, that it's going to get hot again. But this is nice. Very nice.

September 06, 2004

If you're the prayin' kind.

Please say one for my friend Chris, who lives on the panhandle of Florida, where hurricane Frances is stomping right now. At times like this, I wish I were really of the prayin' sort. Chris on a hike we took at Giant City State Park, June 2004.

September 04, 2004

Sierra Club: I miss the city, part II.

Me at Fern Rocks Nature Preserve, February 2004. [The adventure continues, from part I.] I received a letter in the mail yesterday from the Sierra Club. I received one the day before from The Nature Conservancy, from whom I get mail quite frequently. I suspect this is a result of my former membership with PETA, who sells your address to "like-minded organizations" and then tells you they did and that you can ask them not to anymore, although it's already too late. (And that's still not the reason I am no longer a member of PETA.) Anyway, last fall, I was enamored of the idea of being one of those Thoreauvian, outdoorsie-type-people. Here I am 100 miles from the nearest real city, right outside of the largest wilderness in the huge state of Illinois. I am an Eagle Scout and have always loved camping and hiking and sitting outside all night talking around a fire. The only times I really got outside in Boston were walks on the shore of Quincy Bay where I lived and trips to Walden Pond in Concord. I should really take advantage of my situation here in Southern Illinois and go outside more, I thought to myself. So, in November, I relinquished my Timbuk2 messenger bag from my Boston days and drove 100 miles to get the specific Jansport daypack I wanted -- which is, frankly, the best daypack ever. Mine is black and bears the Moleskinerie buttons that Armand sent me last winter. I shaved my head and grew my winter beard, and I looked more than a bit rustic. My wife and I went hiking on Valentines' Day, like we did for our first V-Day in 1998. All was woodsy and well. But lately, I have been bitching about the fact that there is not much for a city boy to do in Carbondale -- not, however, unjustly. There isn't. I go to the movies a lot and the hobby store a lot and bookstores a lot and Target a lot, and that's the grandest that my adventures really get these days. I haven't even had a nice drive through the woods like I used to enjoy. There may not be a lot for a city boy who loves people-watching, but there is plenty to do. Geez, I won't sit here all day talking about all of the parks and rivers and lakes and canyons and such around these parts. I need to get outside more and to stop thinking about the city and all of the neat stuff I can buy there and how interesting the people are to look at over coffee and cookies. So, this is my round-about way and announcing -- in order to really commit myself -- that I have sent a check and membership form to the Sierra Club accepting their invitation for membership and that I will certainly be making an effort to get outside more this fall. Hell, it's my favorite season. And, dear readers, you get some nice photos of autumn in this region, which is nothing short of breath-taking. But don't worry. There'll be no blogging interruptions:)

September 03, 2004

Chico.

I haven't blogged about the other gnomes I received as gifts in the spring, but I will get off my butt and do so now for one that I was given today. Meet Chico (from the Spanish word for "cute," coined by the person who gave it to me). He is from Mexico, and the red hat is supposed to be for "passion." He has a magical crystal in his hand. Maybe he can cast magical passion-spells. He is hand-made. He is less than a inch tall and is standing on a pocket-sized Moleskine. Itty-bitty, he is. He came from the nice hippies who come to our school once a year, for a week in late summer. He was bought for me as the nice hippies were closing shop for the year. The hippies are very nice people. They make the Student Center smell good. And they were the only place to find gnomes this late in the year. Horray for hippies, for tiny gnomes and the nice people who buy them for you!

August 31, 2004

Birthday pie.

French Silk pie that has 560 calories and 40 grams of fat per slice (one half of the size shown). So good.

August 30, 2004

So nice.

Nicola is so sweet:) I have been spending my birthday in my grand style of doing nothing. I didn't go into my office at the university. I didn't crack a book. I didn't shave. I didn't cook. I didn't do any housework. Nothing. It's my favorite way to spend my birthday. More coffee and the movie I always watch on my birthday, Amelie, later. Going out and getting drunk or getting into bed with a stranger are never ways that have occured to me of spending one's birthday. But to each hers or his own. I'm sure I'm guilty of cultivating the laziest birthdays on the planet.

August 29, 2004

Being an ass.

A very close friend of mine has a fellow graduate student who is, plainly, a bitch. She cuts people down whenever she gets the chance, usually in front of professors. She openly says, "Oh, I wish I were you," outloud to people. She calls people lazy and passes judgment on who goes to which meetings. She's just entirely unpleasant, disagreeable and bad-mannered. Two minutes spent with this young lady shows, as my friend correctly points out, that such nastiness comes from this person's insecurity. There is another person with whom I was in a graduate program once who was equally unpleasant. He was the kind of person who would say the most obvious things in a seminar with the air of making the most immediate connection between Heraclitus and Taoism out to be the most profound thing ever uttered in a class on ancient Greek epistemology. He would loudly retrieve stinking food from a greasy bag in a class that was not so long that one needed to take one's meals in the middle of a seminar. He could not have a regular conversation, even with the unfortunate suckers who were his friends. He was, in short, an ass, an arrogant ass. So, as the new graduate students arrive in my department,* I asked my office-mates what characteristic/world-view makes a person more of an ass: insecurity or arrogance. I think that insecurity does, because it introduces a level of pettiness/nastiness/meanness to the mix. Arrogant people might cut one down in class because they feel that such a person is ignorant and ought to study more. The insecure person, in my experience, is out for blood. The lurid desire to make another person "less" is, in my estimation, far worse than exposing another person as already being "less." An arrogant person might mutter to a person in front of a seminar, "Perhaps, my friend, you fail to understand the importance of Scheler's notion on suffering because you need to go back and re-read his Formalism." It seems so much more cruel to say, "See, you don't know your Scheler, either." I can't quite say why I feel that insecurity is more likely to make one behave as an ass. Sure, I can be arrogant sometimes, and perhaps I thereby sympathize with arrogant asses. (I would never cut down a colleague in private, let alone in a room full of people, however.) Maybe it is a case of, "Oh, well, he's an ass, all right. But at least he knows what he's talking about." Who knows? Asking which is worse is not asking a very pragmatik question, is it? *[Most of whom are perfectly nice folks, really. I haven't actually met a new ass yet this year:)]